LinkedData hackday event

I’ve just finished attending a DevCSI+Research Revealed linked data hackday event. This 2 day event hosted by ILRT, was a chance for like-minded individuals interested in Linked Data to meet up, chat, listen to presentations, lightening talks and get a chance to do some hacking together.

We had around 40 attendees from a range of backgrounds; including local freelance developers, software houses, public and private sector companies, members of HE institutions & PhD students.

Over the two days there was a wealth of new ideas, techniques and tools presented, including…


For the hacking part of the event, I teamed up with Libby Miller, Damian Steer and Sam Adams to look at characterising large datasets. In my view this is an underrated aspect of Linked Data which can help increase adoption – how to gain an understanding and feel for the data lying behind an Endpoint when all you can do is fire off unfriendly SPARQL/REST queries. We were investigating techniques for feature extraction/statistical analysis of RDF graphs, and looking at tools to provide visualisations of the datasets. Initially we experienced a few frustrating hours as we came to realise that although we know little of graph theory, it was clear that even to experts this is a non-trivial set of problems.

We struggled on and by the end of day 2, Damian and I successfully implemented a graph reduction algorithm which could be used to identify isolated sub-graphs from within a network of triples.

Spurred on by this work, after the event I coded up a RDF Class-Property diagram viewer using Grails and the Dracula Graph Library, based on Chris Gutteridge‘ SPARQL Vampire Diagram generator.

Screenshot showing Dracular output

XML 2007 Conference report

I’ve just attended the XML 2007 conference in Boston [held in the winter to filter out all but the most determined attendees]. It is actually a much older conference then I’d imagined having been in existence in various guises since the late 80’s and today was attended by a modest 300 people. I think this decline in numbers is indicative of the established position that XML as a technology as become. The use of XML as a document representation language and also as a data format was mirrored in the central strands of the sessions. Topics in the XML and the Web strand (the one I paid most attention to) concentrated around current trends such as Microformats, Mashups, REST, Office Open XML, JSON and AJAX. Although many of these subjects are relatively new, the maturity of the underlying XML infrastructure upon which they rely facilitate speedier adoption and development.

My main attention was on XFORMS – the technology I have been using in the EELS project. We had an entire evening of XFORMS talks (much coffee and festive eggnog was consumed in preparation) and amongst the vast majority of ‘introduction to xforms’-type presentations were some tips on how XFORMS is ideally suited to work with RESTful services, harnessing the power of XML databases for form storage and the position that XFORMS sits within the emerging standards based web development world. Rather then going into further details, I advise interested parties to read the session moderator, John Boyer’s, blog entry.

Overall the quality of the presentations at XML’07 was very good, and most confirmed existing assumptions about current directions that the aforementioned above technologies were taking. I was particularly impressed to see representatives from US government departments attending the conference. We were shown a flavor of the direction Microsoft is heading in for supporting the development of the next generation of web applications (Silverlight & LINQ), and Sidewinder; a container framework for bringing standards-based web apps (inc. XFORMS) to a user’s desktop outside of the traditional web browser.

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EC-TEL’07 Conference report

(Sissi, Crete, Sept 17th 2007)

The 2007 European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning is only celebrating it’s second birthday yet it already had 116 submissions and an acceptance rate lower then 25%. The conference, which is primarily a gathering of PhD students and researchers from around Europe, brings together adaptive hypermedia, data mining, semantic web and social software researchers interested in ‘enhancing’ traditional learning methods. Themes included Web 2.0 & social software, informal learning and workplace & industrial learning. The location, a sun-baked Creteian holiday resort, was quoted by several attendees as being too good (looking out at the clear turquoise sea made it hard to concentrate on the presentations).
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